It is six days to go before Christmas, probably the busiest time of the year but also a time to take pause to reflect on days gone by. Not exactly a great way to end the year for our kababayan in the Visayas for all the devastation it had brought to their lives and properties. But how wonderful that despite all the calamities our people have gone through, there is reason to be thankful for this Christmas.
Once more, we proved to the world the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit and how we refuse to be bogged down each time. We are made of sterner stuff. But if there is anything remarkable that has emerged out of this sorry state is how the world came together to help this tiny nation of 100 million.
Indeed, we saw and heard how much resources flowed in through donations. We are forever grateful. And being US-centric that we are, much of the stories featured were about USAid and resources during the first crucial days in the aftermath of Yolanda. But there are more stories of generosity, gallantry and human kindness that remain untold.
On the island of Panay, over 300 members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), comprised of members of the Canadian Forces and personnel from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, set up camp in Roxas City, cleared 131 kilometers of road, restored generators for hospitals and repaired municipal infrastructure damaged by Yolanda. Canadian Forces mobile medical teams traveled by helicopter into isolated communities in Capiz, Iloilo and Aklan provinces.
The DART was deployed to the Philippines via three CAF CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft that operated nearly continuously between November 11 and 30. During the mission, the Globemasters transported approximately 750,000 pounds of payload to ensure the DART was able to respond appropriately to the crisis.
Initial reconnaissance elements of the DART were first deployed to the Philippines with the Interdepartmental Strategic Support Team (ISST) on November 10, as part of Canada’s response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
Early this week, the new Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder in a statement said Canada provided a total of $20 million in humanitarian assistance for food, shelter, safe water, educational assistance and counseling to disaster victims.
The Canadian government quickly set up a matching fund where the government committed to match, dollar for dollar, the charitable contributions of Canadians to the relief effort. Thus far, Canadians have donated over $20 million to registered charities involved in the humanitarian effort.
“This tremendous outpouring of support including from the Filipino-Canadian community, which numbers nearly 800,000, reflects the generosity of Canadians and our desire to reach out to Filipinos at a time of deep national distress,” he added.
Over the course of their deployment, CAF personnel produced 493,346 liters of purified water available for distribution, treated 6,525 medical patients, and delivered 230,485 pounds of food and humanitarian assistance goods on behalf of nongovernmental organizations and local authorities.
Canada is the fifth-largest country donor to the Central Emergency Relief Fund of the UN, which allocated $25 million to relief efforts in the Philippines. It funded the deployment of a Canadian Red Cross field hospital to Ormoc, which is assisting local hospitals that suffered damage during the typhoon by providing basic health and surgical care, as well as maternal and child care. A number of new babies were born in Leyte since Yolanda made landfall, thanks to Canadian doctors! At the same time, the non-for-profit Canadian Medical Assistance Team is on the ground in Ormoc, providing badly needed outpatient medical services to those who have been affected by this disaster. 16,000 blankets. 3,000 tents. 1.3 million water purification tablets. 5,000 temporary shelters to the Philippines that will assist 5,000 families for a period of three months.
The DART is a multidisciplinary military organization designed to deploy on short notice anywhere in the world in response to situations ranging from natural disasters to complex humanitarian emergencies. It is one component of Canada’s toolkit to respond to natural disasters abroad. It is one which the Philippines ought to have.
Over the course of the next two weeks, DART personnel will return to Canada completing its humanitarian assistance mission in the Philippines. The decision to depart was made in consultation with the Philippine government and the United Nations. The Philippine government has also confirmed that their requirements for the relief phase have been met, and civilian partners and the local government are now positioned to attend to the remaining needs of the population. The mission is now one of long-term reconstruction and it is one in which Canada will continue to play a role.
God is Great!